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Rec Room: Alex Smith: How to Impress an Architect

April 27, 2010


Alex_Smith-small.jpgFor the past two weeks my most recent design project has forced me to reevaluate contemporary architecture’s seminal texts Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Venturi’s writing and his work in his Las Vegas studios have always seemed, to me, a major node in a timeline of design.

In conjunction with this rediscovery, my friends have passed me a simple request: create a list of architecture books that explain what I am always talking about. Usually requests like this get thrown on my back burner, but fortunately today is one of those days in architecture where you realize you need to detail bathrooms, and anything is better than detailing bathrooms.

So here we go. Four seminal texts in the theory and discussion of contemporary architecture, or as I like to call it “How to show off to you architecture friends”:

1. Towards a New Architecture, Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier is the French architect whom many celebrate as the epitome of modern design. Whether his works are familiar or not, his five rules of architectural design are visible in almost every modern building designed since the book was published.

2. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Robert Venturi.

According to Amazon reviews, this book “expresses in the most compelling and original terms the postmodern rebellion against the purism of modernism.”

3. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, Rem Koolhaas.

Attention New Yorkers: this book will change the way you see your city. For everyone else Delirious New York is a postmodern look into one of the most unique and avant garde architects of our time. On top of all that Delirious will help you rejoice in every city you encounter.

4. The Death and Life of Great American CitiesThe Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs.

Perhaps the least visually stunning of the four texts, Death and Life is by far the best at explaining the urban streets we know and love. Jacobs’ text changed the growth patterns of Manhattan as well as changed the way architects, planners and designers think of cities, communities and neighborhoods.


Bio: Alex Smith is an intern at Guernica. Read her last recommendation of SANNA Designs “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1679/rec_room_alex_smith_sanna_arch/.

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